Maryland football preview, Part 2: Stopping the QB carousel

Terps head coach Mike Locksley says redshirt freshman quarterback Lance Legendre “exponentially looks so much more comfortable in the pocket” this year. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

Maryland football has experienced plenty of highs and lows over the last 15 years.

On one hand, they’ve competed for the ACC Atlantic Division Thanksgiving weekend. On the other, they’ve had multiple 2-10 seasons.

The Terps have had multiple head and interim coaches in that span as well, and each has had to deal with one constant: the lack of a consistent starting quarterback. Since 2003, only twice has Maryland started the same player at QB in each of their regular season games: 2006 with Sam Hollenbach and 2014 with C.J. Brown.

Whether it’s been injury or ineffectiveness, the Terps have fired up the quarterback carousel more often than not. In his first year at the helm, head coach Mike Locksley started both Josh Jackson and Tyrrell Pigrome because of both.

The year he was interim coach after Randy Edsall’s firing, the Terps started three QBs. His first season at offensive coordinator (2012), Maryland lost three quarterbacks to injury, and the team had to use scout team linebacker Shawn Petty with a tight end as his backup to end the season.

“I’ve been through quite a few of these from my last place of business to being here. We’ve not had a consistent starter in the time I’ve been here,” Locksley said. “As I’ve always stated, the quarterback who starts for us is the one who gives us the best chance to win games.”

The two contenders for this year’s starting job are redshirt freshman Lance LeGendre and sophomore transfer Taulia Tagovailoa.

“We feel very excited about the talent we have in the quarterback room with both Lance and Lia,” Locksley said. “Those two have done a good job of the mental part of learning what we do.”

The duo bring quite a bit of potential but not a ton of experience, as their combined career numbers are 15 passes thrown over eight games played. So even with the limits of practicing in the COVID-19 pandemic, both need to progress this fall if the passing game is going to be better than it was in 2019 (12th in yardage and efficiency in the Big Ten).

“I can just tell both guys have done a tremendous job of taking the coaching and taking the system,” Locksley said. “Lance Legendre from last year to this exponentially looks so much more comfortable in the pocket — winning in the pocket. Obviously Taulia is as advertised as a player; his ability to throw the football and get the ball out quick. Both guys offer athleticism at the position.”

While each passes the eye test, Locksley plans to use a modern manner in determining who emerges as the first string quarterback.

“There are some things we do in practice, that we can put empirical data to show us who does the best job of moving the ball down the field, who does the best job of scoring points,” Locksley said. “We’ll be putting the quarterbacks in these competitive game-simulated situations and see how they respond and how they perform.”

Locksley’s role as a quarterback whisperer has changed throughout his career, from position coach to coordinator and now head coach.

“I’m a people person. I’m one of those guys who loves being in the meeting room and the camaraderie that comes with it,” Locksley said. “But I also know you can’t have a bunch of guys talking to the quarterback. We’re running our system, the system I’ve run over the course of the years I’ve been a coordinator.”

So that means less may be more for his direct input in the QB room, focusing on quality instead of quantity.

“I’m going to always have my hands on the offense, I’m always going to be one of those guys that will be the ‘extra eye’,” Locksley said. “I see myself as being more of a tutor, in terms of assisting [offensive coordinator] Scottie [Reynolds]. I kind of know it well enough to be able to skip a couple of the processes to say ‘this is why the ball goes here.'”

Knowing what should be happening is one thing. Seeing it happen on the field is another. Being able to sustain it happening is the key to whoever gets the nod at quarterback, and the key to a successful season is keeping that man successful and upright.

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